Israel Resource Review 25th Febuary, 2001


Official Palestinian Authority statement on the eve of Sec, of State Colin Powell's visit

For several days now, the news published in the world about the devastating effects of the Israeli siege imposed upon the Palestinian occupied territory have served to forge a new discourse: it has become the chronicle of an announced death, and commentators and analysts, some to warn and prevent, others to speculate on an aftermath, all announce the imminent collapse of the Palestinian national institutions and the instoration of "anarchy".

On the Israeli side, one can understand the function of such a description: this is mostly wishful colonial thinking. There are those, among Israeli leaders, and among the journalists who echo their aspirations, who hope we'll disappear. Who hope we'll no longer be there, neither to resist, nor to negotiate, leaving them with no interlocutors at all, or with some alternative radical-religious leadership unknown to the international community, and which will, just like the Israeli government, refuse to "negotiate under fire", that is to say refuse to negotiate under occupation, settlement and aggression.

It is true, as UNSCO Special Commissioner Tarjie Larsen rightly emphasized, in his Gaza Press Conference last week, that the economic blockade and total closure imposed upon the Palestinian people, the disruption of economic activity and the spectacular rise in unemployment, the cut in supplies in numerous fields of production and consumption and all the side-effects of the siege have brought our nascent economy down on its knees, and that it will take a long time to rebuild that which has been destroyed. It is true that the cost of the so-called security measures, in fact measures of collective punishment, adopted by the occupyer is much greater than the sum total of international assistance to the Palestinian people for the same period. And it is also true that our institutions and administration are on the verge of total bankruptcy. And it is true that the international community should take the measure of the gravity of our situation, with all the risks it involves.

But we are far from anarchy. Not only because our civil society - from family structures to voluntary associations, from religious clubs to chambers of commerce - is as vigorous as ever, and determined to pursue its long march towards statehood; but also because our institutions were never given the chance or the time to develop as a separate realm from that of political decision-making organs.

Of course, we are also as far remote as we have ever been from a full-fledged state. Our authority, already limited within the framework of unimplemented interim agreements, is now daily undermined by the lack of mobility, and the gross violation, by occupation forces, of all agreements signed. There is, unfortunately, still no sovereign Palestinian State, and there can therefore be neither security, nor Rule of Law for the citizens. The Intifada itself manifests the intervention of the street -- the rank and file of national organisations -- in the thwarted political process, and its will to march, on its own, towards negotiations and independence. But all these conditions and hardship do not mean in any way that we're "losing control". For before being the government of a state-in-the-making, the PLO-PNA is a national liberation movement, and its authority derives primarily from its legitimacy.

The PLO has already crossed many deserts: from the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 to the Black September of 1970 and to the siege of Beirut, from the siege of Tripoli and the "camps war" in Lebanon to the first Intifada. The Palestinian people, for its part, has emerged from and survived to the total disaster of 1948. Anyone looking at this historical perpective can see that the trend is upwards, that the Palestinian people is in the process of reasserting its national existence on its land, as it clear that the colonial archaism prevailing among Israeli politicians is doomed.

Let no one be deluded. We will survive this phase.

It is however likely that, in spite of our absolute readiness to negotiate the just and durable peace for which we have opted, the new government of Israel, whetever the outcome of the present attempts to form a wide coalition, will not go back to the table before having attempted and failed to impose a military solution. Unfortunately, mankind only recurs to rational solutions when all others have failed, and it takes both intelligence and humility to acknowledge failure. Hence the question of the cost, and of the delay.

The equation which binds military escalation on the ground and international intervention remains in vigor, whatever the new government in Israel. The responsibility of the international community is therefore immense. Complacency here borders on complicity. We send our warmest greetings to the Government of Belgium, who spoke with remarkable clarity and frankness with Sharon's special envoy. Give a chance and judge on the acts cannot mean become ignorant, oblivious of past experience and hopelessly naïve.

After the cloud and smoke dissipates, and when the demagogic slogans of the Israeli war-mongers are drowned in their own failure, negotiations will resume. We'll be worse off than today, our societies and opinions crippled and embittered, and legitimately angry at all the time and suffering gone by. But there will be no other way than to go back to international legality. Go back to UN Resolutions 242 and 338, the basic terms of reference of the Madrid Conference. Go back to the 1993 Declaration of Principles, and demand its implementation on the basis of Security Council Resolution 904, of February 1994. To Wye River, to Sharm El Sheikh 1 and 2. To Security Council resolution 242 (Inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by war) for the territory, to SC Resolution 338 (International Conference) for the mechanism, to the UN as a framework. After all, if, according to the new US administration, it is no longer appropriate to speak of the "peace process", there is no more obstacle to replacing the whole negotiating process, and the efforts of the international community, within the UN framework.

Until then, and so that it can happen, several misconceptions must be dissipated:

  1. About negotiations and Israeli "generosity": the percentage game in which Israeli negotiators have constantly indulged (90%, 94%, 96%, etc…) is meant to hide the simple fact that while negotiating on a mere 22% of the territory of historical, or Mandatory, Palestine, the occupyier wants to annex yet another fraction of the Land. There is no generosity in the offer to restitute 90% of 22% of a land wholly acquired by force.
  2. About Jerusalem and the Haram El Sharif : the Israeli insistence on sovereignty on the Haram El Sharif, unprecedented in the history of the conflict, makes any agreement on Jerusalem impossible. As a Holy Site, the Haram belongs to all Arabs, and to all Moslems, and they have all made it abundantly clear to the world that nobody was entitled to give it up.
  3. About the Right of Return: the right of all refugees to return to their homeland is a basic principle of international law. It is recognized everywhere. Resolution 194 was adopted in December 1948 to embody the recognition of this right for Palestinian refugees. There is no way to negotiate flexible and creative arrangements to solve this problem without starting with a solemn recognition of this right.
  4. About settlements and settlers: settlement and settlers are illegal. Their function is a military aggressive one, they are all at once conceptual, political and physical obstacles to peace. They must be removed, so as to allow for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state enjoying territorial continuity.
  5. About "violence" as an abstract, metaphysical category. There is a fundamental difference between the violence of occupation (military presence and coercion, control and repression) and colonization (armed robbery of the land) and that of the popular upheaval, which, on the whole, is both reactive and defensive. This qualitative difference condemns all symmetrical appeals to restore calm to inefficiency, or even to irrelevance. The Intifada will not stop until the Palestinian people see something moving on the ground.

    In the meantime, Israeli military aggression against our people goes on: siege, shelling, assassinations go on. The whole idea of peace has been made into a sinister joke, reconciliation has become the name of an abstract paradox. It is also the responsibility of the world as a whole to see to it that this spiral is stopped, and to help us put an end to this conflict.

    This editorial can be found at:

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    Libelous Allegations Against Israel in the Palestinian Authority
    Itamar Marcus, Director. Palestinian Media Watch
    Special Weekly Report

    Libels, lies, and false accusations against Israel and Jews are frequent, prominent components of the Palestinian leadership's public discourse and in the Palestinian media. Suha Arafat's accusation, made while standing next to Hillary Clinton, that Israel was poisoning Palestinians was consistent with standard Palestinian libels.

    The quantity and intensity of these libels have increased lately with the aim of presenting Israel and Jews as evil, treacherous enemies that pose a mortal danger to the Palestinians, to Islam, and to all that is holy to them. The intent of this campaign is to intensify the hostile atmosphere toward Israel and is consistent with the Palestinian Authority's policy of fostering hatred toward Israel.

    Yasser Arafat, at the recent Davos Economic Forum, called on the international community to protect the Palestinians from Israeli actions, including the use of tanks, combat helicopters, and machine guns against Palestinian children. He also asserted that Israel is using ammunition tipped with depleted uranium and other prohibited weapons.

    In a sequel to Suha Arafat's accusations, the Palestinian Authority's newspapers reported again about gas poisonings:

    "Medical sources reported yesterday evening that more than 40 residents were injured in a strange occurrence of hysteria and nervous collapse as a result of their inhaling poison gas, fired for the first time by the Israeli occupation forces on defenseless residents. Medical specialists are of the opinion that it is nerve gas, prohibited by international law. [Al Ayyam, 13 February 2000, and a similar report in Al Quds]

    Two other recent Palestinian "medical" reports:

    "Senior medical sources related yesterday that the occupation forces used a new kind of lethal bullets against innocent residents. The new bullets have sharp metal wings and they fly at great speeds." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, 28 October 2001]

    "Authoritative medical sources revealed that there is an increase in the average number of deformed births in the Shafaa hospital in Gaza. They do not deny the possibility that this phenomenon is associated with depleted uranium." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, 31 January 2001]

    There is of course no basis to any of this. Not only has the Israeli Army categorically refuted the allegations, but it is clear that these claims are in the same category as the Palestinian libel that Israel infected Palestinians with AIDS.

    The Palestinians often issue false statements contradicting even publicly known facts. The entire world saw the televised destruction of Joseph's Tomb by Palestinian mobs and police. Yet the Palestinians reported the event as follows:

    "Yesterday, the City of Nablus began the rehabilitation and renovation of the demolished parts of 'Joseph's Tomb' . It is important to note that heavy damage was caused to the tomb and to a large number of nearby structures during these disturbances, in the wake of the shootings by the occupation forces which are concentrated on Mounts Grizim and Eival, and because of their use of heavy machine guns." [Al Ayyam, 10 October 2000]

    The big lie, stated consistently in reports on the continuing violence, is the continuous portrayal of Israel as the attacker and the Palestinians as the defenders, in news accounts of shooting incidents. They also attribute to Israel sophisticated plots:

    The permanent [Palestinian] Military Court in Hebron sentenced the [Palestinian] officer Hassan Massalem, 55, yesterday morning to death by firing squad . The military prosecutor accused Massalem with conspiring with Israeli intelligence. and with firing a pistol from the Hebron neighborhood of Al Sheikh toward Israeli positions on orders of his Israeli controllers, in order to give the occupation soldiers a pretext for massively shelling the residential neighborhood." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, 12 February 2001]

    The portrayal of Israel as wanting to expand to occupy all the Arab states is a common lie. This is exemplified in a particularly venomous video clip entitled This is How they Humiliated My Mother that began airing recently. A teacher is depicted in the video clip with a classroom of Jewish children wearing kippot (religious skullcaps) in front of the Israeli flag, teaching: "The Land of Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates". [Palestinian Television, 14 February 2001]. The video clip is shown as if were an actual classroom in a Jewish school. The actors speak Hebrew.

    The denial of Jewish history and tradition with the goal of negating Israel' s historical right to exist, is policy within the Palestinian Authority's formal and informal educational frameworks. In textbooks and similarly in educational television broadcasts, the P.A.'s leadership and educators erase the entire Jewish past, denying Jewish presence in Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. The Palestinian go to especially great lengths to try to refute that Jerusalem is the site of the Temple.

    Dr. Suliman Alshrafaa, a Palestinian academic who hosted the religious television program, Customs of Ramadan:

    "We often hear those false claims of the Jews that their Temple Solomon's Temple is located underneath the Al Aqsa mosque . . There is a professor by the name of Menachem Klein from Bar Ilan University, located in occupied Palestine [Ramat Gan, adjacent to Tel Aviv - Ed note] whose specialty is Jerusalem and argues that the false arguments according to which the Temple is located underneath Al Aqsa are indeed deeply rooted Jewish claims, but in truth it is envisioned that the third Temple in its entirety will descend from heaven after the coming of the Messiah. This is the truth. Klein argues that this is stated explicitly in Rashi's commentary Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchak, the number one [Jewish] commentator on the Talmud on the Mishna in Sukkah, Chapter 40, side 1 [sic]. And so it is asserted by Rav Sa'adiah Ga'on, a native of Al Fahoum who headed the great Yeshiva in Iraq, commentator number two. Therefore, Rabbis maintained that it is totally incorrect that the Temple is underneath the Al Aqsa Mosque . . ". [Palestinian Television, 23 December 2000]

    This week Sheikh Ikrama Sabri, the PA-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, released a religious ruling, a "Fatwa", denying the Jewish connection to the Kotel: "No stone of the Western Wall has any connection to Hebrew history."

    Recently the Mufti responded to a viewer's question on TV as to why the Jews pray in the direction of the Al Aqsa Mosque, with the following distortion of Jewish tradition. He did not simply explain the truth - that the Jews are praying in the direction of the Western Wall of the destroyed Temple upon which the Muslims built the Mosque. Rather he stated that the Jews call the "Western Wall" the "Wailing Wall" and then creates a bizarre fantasy for their "wailing":

    "The Jews call this the Wailing Wall for two reasons. The first, the overt [reason] is that they cry because they lost one of the Ten Commandments [tablets], and they lie and claim that the Commandment [tablet] was lost in the area around Al Aqsa. This is why religious Jews are apprehensive of entering the Temple Mount, because of the fear that they might step on a paving stone underneath which may be the lost commandment [tablet]. The second reason, that is not openly stated is that the Jews cry, repent, and remonstrate before Allah that He chose Mohammed from among the Arabs and did not choose a [prophet] from among the Children of Israel. In Mohammed's time the Jews thought that the final prophet would be a Jew, and they prepared themselves to receive him and they even threatened the Arabs and said to them that 'When the new prophet comes, we'll see what we will do to you' and then the prophet turned up from among the Arabs and they (the Jews) became angry and bitter that he (Mohammed) is the prophet. What they are crying about is their protest 'Why wasn't the prophet [chosen] from among the Children of Israel, as they had anticipated." [Palestinian Television, 11 January 2001]

    This distortion is part of the continuing attack on Jewish tradition by the Mufti who, a few months ago, said:

    "There is not a single stone in Palestine that proves the [historical] Jewish existence [in the land]." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, 15 October 2000]

    Translated and adapted from the Hebrew by Hershel Ginsburg.

    Palestinian Media Watch
    59 King George St., Jerusalem, Israel
    phone: 972- 2- 625-4140 fax: 972-2- 624-2803
    for further information, contact PMW Director, Itamar Marcus
    material may be quoted, citing PMW as the source

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    - P.B.C. V.O.P. (Voice of Palestine) Radio: February 23rd

    Friday Summary and Analysis

    In its Friday broadcasts, V.O.P. continued several major trends that have emerged during the week:

    • emphasizing the brutal and "CRIMINAL" escalation by Israel that is killing Palestinian civilians and decimating the Palestinian economy;
    • pushing Arafat to the front of the internal Palestinian stage again;
    • urging outside intervention by Europe and the United Nations against Israel-both as a direct threat to Israel (war crimes tribunal) but also to signal that the Palestinian Authority has other options outside the United States (which it views as pro-Israeli and anti-Iraqi);
    • and re-stating that there will be no peace for Israel or the Palestinians until all demands are met, including full Israeli withdrawal, Arab sovereignty over Jerusalem and its holy places, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

    In a featured morning interview, PA Cabinet Secretary Ahmad Abd-al-Rahman warned that any military intervention inside PA territory by Israeli forces would "cost Israel dearly." The comments by Abd-al-Rahman, one of Yasser Arafat's closest advisors, were re-broadcast throughout the day's headlines. Abd-al-Rahman and other PA officials (such as Tawfik Tirawi) throughout the week directly threatened Israel with serious military and political consequences ranging from escalating Intifada to counter-assassinations of Israeli officials. Abd-al-Rahman also stressed that one of the Intifada's goals was to make the continued existence of the settlers untenable, and he noted that the Intifada had succeeded in throwing the settlers into "a complete state of panic."

    V.O.P. broadcast prominently Thursday remarks by an Egyptian Islamic cleric, the Mufti Sheikh Nasser Farid Wasil to the effect that "the Western neighborhood of the Sacred Shrine (a.k.a. Noble Sanctuary/ Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif) is the property of the Muslims, and it is forbidden to designate it as the Wailing Wall." In other words, the Western Wall of the Temple Mount is NOT ONLY NOT JEWISH PROPERTY, BUT IT IS FORBIDDEN EVEN TO REFER TO IT IN A WAY THAT MIGHT SUGGEST SOME JEWISH CONNECTION TO THE SITE. "And the Sheikh said that the Buraq Wall is the western portion of the blessed Al Aqsa Compound, and there can be NO RECOGNITION OF ANY JEWISH PROPERTY CLAIM TO SUCH A WALL," V.O.P. quoted from the cleric's statement. "Because," the statement quoted by V.O.P. continued, "the placing of any hand by Israeli authorities on the wall is the exercise of sacerdotal functions by Israeli occupation which opposes international legitimacy no matter what amount of time has evolved."

    The second part of the quotation seems to make two points:

    • it recalls the findings of a British Mandate-appointed commission on May 19, 1931, giving Jews limited access and Muslim authorities ultimate control over the Western Wall;
    • it attacks the practice of Israeli politicians-and Jews generally-of praying at and touching the wall, as both Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon did the morning after their respective election victories in 1999 and 2001.

    V.O.P. followed the Egyptian cleric's words with a re-broadcast of a similar ruling last week by (PA-salaried) Jerusalem mufti Sheikh Ikrema al-Sabry that "the Buraq wall is an inseparable part of the Al Aqsa Mosque, and he said that referring to it as 'haram al-mabka' (Arabic translation: The Wailing Wall) was forbidden to Muslims..His Authority the Sheikh said Muslims should refer to the site as the Buraq Wall."

    (NOTE: "Buraq" is a reference to the mythic steed of Islam's prophet, Muhammad. According to legends developed many years after Muhammad's death, the verses in the Quran describing Muhammad's mystical night journey from the "mosque of holiness" to the "farthest mosque" (al-Aqsa in Arabic") were a reference to a journey atop a winged horse-donkey to Jerusalem's "Al Aqsa" mosque, which was conquered, built and named well after Muhammad-who never left Arabia-died. The legends were developed by various Islamic rulers ranging from Abd-al-Malik to Salah al-din (Saladin) with an eye to buttressing their own power and Muslim defense of Jerusalem, especially against Crusaders. Islamic scholars say that the "Buraq" character is actually heavily influenced by the earlier Jewish messianic theme of "soosya barqa" (Hebrew/Aramaic: the horse or donkey Barka or Barqa) upon whose back the Messiah is expected to arrive. Those wishing to examine the exegesis of the themes may look at The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam by H.A.R. Gibb and J.H. Kramers, p. 65 as well as other entries in same and The Encyclopedia Britannica as well as the writings of Professors S.D. Goitein and H. Lazarus-Yaffe.)

    Friday Morning Headlines, February 23, 8 a.m. / 9 a.m.

    • "Israeli bombardment of inhabited neighborhood in Beit Sahur in Bethlehem district and Zababdeh township near Jenin;
    • In Jericho, shelling of security forces in 'Auja;
    • His Excellency President Yasser Arafat asserts that the peace process in the Middle East needs the powerful push of the European Union;
    • The Egyptian realm's Mufti said the Sacred Shrine (Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount) is the property of Muslims and should not be designated the Wailing Wall; [NOTE: this item shows a favorite V.O.P. technique-using the words of someone else to further its own point of view.

    This is particularly true when the remarks are so extreme in tone that if any PA official said them, it would embarrass the PA. By using a quotation from someone else, V.O.P. encourages the content of the message while the PA enjoys plausible deniability];

  6. American and British planes bombard last night -and for the second time this week-targets in northern Iraq;
  7. The formation of a new government in Sudan."

    Quote of the Day

    "I say that the Israelis will not reach security without peace. Security for them will only be realized through peace and that means withdrawing their army and the settlers from Palestinian lands..

    It should be clear that for the last five months that Israeli presence, occupation, Israeli settlement in Palestinian lands will not return to being an outing but a different existence, a tearful existence. That is what the Palestinian confrontation is making firm to Israelis every day." (Ahmad Abd-al-Rahman, PA Cabinet secretary, featured interviewee on Friday Morning Dialogue, 8:20 a.m.)

    Quotes from Interview with Ahmad Abd-al-Rahman (8:40-8:50 a.m.)

    Question: "Some Israeli officers are speaking of re-conquering some territories controlled by the Palestinian National Authority. Mr. Abd-al-Rahman what to do you say about the calls of some Israeli officers to re-conquer some Palestinian areas?"

    Answer: "First of all, I want to say that the present situation in Israel is a worrisome situation. Because some of the Israeli adventurers and extremists have reached decision-making positions. And all possibilities are open to this group of extremists who issue statements without taking account, and who are presenting avenues of action that are very dangerous for the Palestinian people. In any event, these statements and these Israeli threats will not be carried out easily. Entry to Palestinian territory will not be a pleasure trip (or outing). It should be clear that for the last five months that Israeli presence, occupation, Israeli settlement in Palestinian lands will not return to being an outing but a different existence, a tearful existence. That is what the Palestinian confrontation is making firm to Israelis every day.

    And the Israeli government in pushing forward military solutions, occupation operations, military raids on some locations, use of helicopters, it is clear that none of this will be a cakewalk or an outing. They will pay a price for every attack against the Palestinian people."

    Question: "What about special units executing assassination operations in Palestinian territory?"

    Answer: "They brag about this, saying (it) all day long to strengthen the sense of importance of the Israeli settlers. And as you know the settlers have become thrown into a complete state of panic during the Intifada which our Palestinian people have confronted them in all areas, to harry the settlers from the Palestinian territories.And naturally, by necessity, the Occupation authorities are looking for any means to give the settlers security. But the Palestinian people will continue day after day.."

    Question: "All of what you have said leads to increasing escalation by the Israeli Occupation, and how will this affect the arrival of Colin Powell in the region, and the American efforts in the peace process?"

    Answer: "Really, all that the Israeli government does is a continuous strategy. But I say that Israel's priority is not peace. Israel's priority, as Sharon says, is security. But I say that the Israelis will not reach security without peace. Security for them will only be realized through peace and that means withdrawing their army and the settlers from Palestinian lands..All the things that President Bush said in his press conference about Iraq, about Iraq respecting its neighbors and so on. Well, why doesn't he say something like that to the Israelis? Here is a clear American prejudice in favor of Israel. This same prejudice is what encourage the Israeli aggressors to continue their aggression."

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